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Poetry Gallery

Poetry Gallery

The murals in the lunettes of the south gallery are by artist Henry Oliver Walker (1843-1929). The largest mural, at the far end, depicts Lyric Poetry. Before a distant vista figures are gathered in a woodland scene with a tumbling brook at its center, a wild and natural scene that might inspire a poet.

The figure standing boldly forward in the center represents "Lyric Poetry," crowned with a wreath of laurel and touching the strings of a lyre. The feelings that most commonly inspire her songs are personified on either side. On the right are "Pathos," looking upward, as if calling on heaven to allay her grief; "Truth," a beautiful nude woman (the naked truth) stands securely upright; and in the corner "Devotion" sits absorbed in contemplation. On the left are "Passion," enraptured, with her arms thrown out in a graceful movement; "Beauty," who sits calmly self-contained; and "Mirth," the nude figure of a little boy, who invites her to play.

In each of the smaller lunettes, the artists depicts youthful male figures who are characters in the works of noted British and American poets; represented on the south side of the corridor are Alfred, Lord Tennyson 1809-1892, John Keats (1809-1892), William Wordsworth (1770-1850), and Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882); and on the north side John Milton (1608-1674) and William Shakespeare (1564-1616).

Photography by Carol M. Highsmith.

"The Poets, who on earth have made us-"

In the large lunette above the window at the opposite end of the gallery, the artist depicts an idyllic summer landscape with three seated female figures and a youth with a lamb. At the top center are lines from Wordsworth's "Personal Talk". On the left and right, respectively, the figures represent the joyful feelings and solemn moods of lyric poetry.

Lyric Poetry

The figure standing boldly forward in the center represents "Lyric Poetry," crowned with a wreath of laurel and touching the strings of a lyre. The feelings that most commonly inspire her songs are personified on either side. On the right are "Pathos," looking upward, as if calling on heaven to allay her grief; "Truth," a beautiful nude woman (the naked truth) stands securely upright; and in the corner "Devotion" sits absorbed in contemplation. On the left are "Passion," enraptured, with her arms thrown out in a graceful movement; "Beauty," who sits calmly self-contained; and "Mirth," the nude figure of a little boy, who invites her to play.

Emerson's "Uriel"

Emerson's Uriel, from the poem of that name, is shown as a scornful and angry archangel.

Keats's "Endymion"

Keats's Endymion, from his poem of that name lies asleep on Mount Latmos, with his lover Diana, the goddess of the Moon, shining down upon him.

Milton's "Comus"

Milton's Comus, from the masque of that name, is shown in a forest, disguised as a shepherd. Entranced by the song of the Lady, he listens on bended knee and speaks these words:

"Can any mortal mixture of the earth's mould
Breathe such divine enchanting ravishment?"

Shakespeare's "Venus and Adonis"

For Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis, the artist shows the sprawled body of the dead Adonis, gored by a boar while hunting in the forest.

Tennyson's "Ganymede"

Tennyson's Ganymede is depicted upon the back of an eagle, the form taken by Jupiter when he brought the boy from his earthly home to be the cupbearer of the gods. The lines referred to are from Tennyson's "The Palace of Art."

Vaulted Ceiling with Poets' Names

The names of lyric poets appear in the mosaic ceiling vaults. On the stairhall side are the names of six Americans: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), James Russell Lowell (1819-1891) ,John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892), William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878), Walt Whitman (1819-1892), and Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849). Names of British and European poets are on the opposite side: Robert Browning (1812-1889), Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824), Alfred de Musset (1810-1857), Victor Hugo (1802-1885), and Heinrich Heine (1797-1856)). Names of distinguished poets from the ancient, medieval, and early modern periods occupy the spaces along the center of the vault: Theocritus (3rd century B.C.), Pindar (522-443 B.C.), Anacreon (570-488 B.C.) Sappho (ca.630-ca. 570 B.C), Gaius Valerius Catullus (ca. 84-ca.54 B.C.)Horace (65-8 B.C.), Petrarch (1304-1374), and Pierre de Ronsard (1524-1585).

Wordsworth's "Boy at Winander"

Wordsworth's The Boy of Winander, whose early death is a subject in both Lyrical Ballads and The Prelude, is seated by the side of a lake the surface of which reflects the stars above.